1. Unity around mission is a must.
Each day, a new issue divides the world we live in: politics, race, masks, vaccines, regulations, lifestyle choices, and more. Neighbors are at odds. Friends aren’t talking, and then everyone shows up at church. Now more than ever, the echoes of Jesus’ prayer for unity need to reverberate with conviction in the rooms of our churches. Clear, bold, practical messages that draw people away from division and toward the mission of Jesus. No, we aren’t going to agree on everything, but we can live together carrying the mission of Jesus as the priority. When we stand up to preach, we should bring unity around mission with conviction and passion. When eternity hangs in the balance, we don’t have time to argue politics; we must move on mission together!
2. A focus on a bigger Kingdom
As the voices of the world grow louder, the problems seem larger. Culture seems to be splitting at the seams and oozing with negativity. Caught in the middle, we are left asking ourselves, “Where is God? I thought the whole world was in his hands. Did he drop us?” The short answer is no. We are just placing our focus on the wrong Kingdom. The Kingdom of Jesus doesn’t shrink as fears grow larger. His Kingdom is more significant than the problems of the world, and we need to preach like it! We have to stop standing and speaking about a kingdom that is comprehendible and contained. Instead, we need voices that show people a Kingdom that swallows up the world’s sorrow and delivers hope.
3. A reminder that Jesus is better.
Aspects of the world seem so enticing…until they don’t. Greed seems enjoyable until you are miserable. Lust seems adventurous until you are lonely. Popularity seems freeing until you lose your identity. As we search for something better in our souls, we keep hitting walls. A focus on self typically leads to selfishness, and that leaves us empty. Jesus’ call to let go of the enticements and follow Him is better. Jesus isn’t about a whole bunch of rules and religion; He wants a relationship. We need to preach a Jesus who isn’t swinging a gavel but wants to go for a walk. With the platforms that God gives us, we need to communicate a Jesus that is filled with hope in our hopelessness—overflowing with grace, in the middle of our sin. Our churches don’t need more crosses stuck on the wall, they need to hear from preachers whose lives have been drastically altered by the cross, and we see nothing in life better.
4. Believe and live what we say.
Sunday is always coming. There is always another sermon to write. The routine can rob our passion and leave us just to accomplish a task. We live in a culture that doesn’t want to hear what we have to say; they want to see what we are saying. Our teaching is nothing more than a speech if not filled with passion, creativity, and relevancy. Jesus is too good, and Heaven is too inviting for us to throw some messages against the wall and hope something sticks. If Jesus is the hope of the world, then our messages and live should reflect that. We don’t need to add anything to Jesus, but we can talk about him joyfully, faithfully believing what he says. Everybody has a platform these days. It is easy to tell a lot of things. It’s not just about what we say; it’s about how we live it after saying it that can make the most significant difference for Jesus.
5. We have to be authentic.
As celebrity pastors seem to be falling like dominoes, there is an ache for authenticity from our people. It is time for preachers to step up and be who we call others to be. We have to be the best followers before we can be leaders. Nobody relates to a talking head on stage or online. They relate to other people. So don’t try to be the preacher online or at the latest conference. Instead, be the authentic version of you that is discovering Jesus and sharing it with others. Jud Wilhite from Las Vegas once said, “If you preach to brokenness, you will never lose an audience.” That is true for us as preachers as well. Let people see the real you. Tell real stories. Be an authentic person they can follow, not just Sunday lessons they hear. Don’t doubt God’s design in you; discover it and grow it. People want you; they will listen and follow you, not just information you read in a commentary.
6. Comfort cannot be king.
The best lessons I have learned about my faith have come when I am extremely uncomfortable. I never draw close and depend on Jesus more than he is all that I have. Yet, many of our sermons seem like participation trophies and not a call to be a disciple. We are wearing kid gloves to carry a Cross because we are afraid to make people mad. Whatever it looks like for you, when we signed up to step into a pulpit, we signed up for the whole truth, even when it steps on toes. The people who most of the time get uncomfortable when we preach truth need to hear it the most. Comfort cannot be our king when Jesus is king, and sometimes he made people mad. Sometimes, what the Holy Spirit needs us to say to grow his people will upset the most, and we are called to say it.
Comfort cannot be our king when Jesus is king, and sometimes he made people mad.Tweet
7. We cannot fear standing in tension.
On the coattails of phrases like “seeker-sensitive” and “attractional churches,” we have lost the depth of teaching. In a strong effort to be relatable and relevant, we have skimmed the top and invited people to just step in ankle-deep. As much as any other preacher, I want to be relatable and answer the questions people are asking about Jesus. However, that can’t come at the cost of drawing people to a depth of understanding that they are willing to give their lives too. A gospel that just makes us feel good tells us what we want to hear, and points toward happiness is not the gospel of Jesus. We need preachers that remind us of grace and at the same time call us to sacrifice. We need to stand up and speak of joy while also encouraging faithfulness in sorrow. We need the platforms of today’s Church to stand in the tension of grace and truth and strive to find both!
As we plan for the upcoming year, let this be the year where we stand up boldly and declare the hope we find in Jesus. Let us reach greater depths in our preparation and call people to more than surface-level understanding. Let us show them that the Kingdom of Jesus is bigger than this broken world and that Jesus is always better!